Proposal for state to stop ‘trickle-down education funding’ offers chance to advance equity and improve opportunity for students

by | Jan 18, 2018 | Press Release

The level of school funding and how those resources are invested play an important role in student success — helping to determine whether students have access to strong educators, enroll in higher-level and advanced courses, are taught using modern textbooks and technology, and have the support of guidance counselors, librarians, and art and music teachers.

But while much attention goes to funding gaps between districts, how resources are allocated within school districts currently remains hidden, potentially masking gaping inequities from one school to another — gaps that may disproportionately impact schools that serve the most low-income students, students of color, English language learners, homeless students, and students with disabilities.

A new policy brief by The Education Trust–New York examines how the FY19 Executive Budget, along with the state’s just-approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plan, can shine a light and prompt action to close these intra-district resource equity gaps.

The budget proposal released by the governor on Tuesday, which requires the state’s largest school districts to submit school-level funding plans, includes significant promising elements including:

  1. It requires consistent and transparent reporting across school districts.
  2. It requires school districts to seek approval for their per-pupil allocation decisions – creating a new incentive for school districts to address the funding inequities within their control and invest in the students with the greatest needs, or potentially face consequences.
  3. It requires immediate action for the largest school districts in 2018-19 while providing sufficient time for other large school districts to fulfill the requirements by 2019-20.

As policymakers consider the Executive proposal, the policy brief also raises questions for consideration:

  1. How will school-level funding be defined?
  2. Should more school districts be subject to these important equity provisions?
  3. Will there be a clear test of whether school districts are making equitable local investment decisions?
  4. How will school districts demonstrate that they are making sufficient progress in closing these gaps?

“Underneath the mantle of ‘local control,’ the schools that enroll the most historically under-served student populations — low-income students, students of color, English language learners, homeless students, or students with disabilities — might be given less state and local funding per-pupil than schools in the same school district with far smaller shares of these student populations,” said Ian Rosenblum, Executive Director of The Education Trust–New York. “This budget proposal offers an opportunity to not only shine light on where these inequities exist, but require districts to take action.”e